“You’re Alive, Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you change the world, the world will change. Potential. Once you’re dead, it’s gone. Over. You’ve made what you’ve made, dreamed your dream, written your name. You may be buried here, you may even walk. But that potential is finished.” (The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman)
This book is fantastically suited to the pre-Halloween season without ever having to mention the holiday. I am in complete agreement with the Newbery committee’s symbolic proclamation that this story could be read by anyone at any time of year, but I can’t help but wonder if I would have looked at the dark gray cover twice in, say, pre Yule-Tide December. I might not be able to judge the quality of the book by the cover, (Penguin Classic’s Deluxe Editions being a clear exception to the rule) but I think I can claim, at least, that bright blue covers belong to summer, and gray ones to Halloween.
Admittedly, having a character grow up in a graveyard is a rather unique idea, but what truly makes this book memorable is the quality of the storytelling. Besides the quirky, mysterious backdrop and the interesting details it provides, Neil Gaiman still had the same basic material to work with as everyone else, namely, telling a story of a boy growing up and coming into his own. One of the reasons his story telling succeeds so well is that he shows only select parts of Bod’s life. Instead of merely saying that Bod grew up in such and such a way, Neil Gaiman gives the reader snapshots of every turning point in the boy’s life. The reader experiences vignettes, as it were, each being one a complete and satisfying story in itself, but also showing the building blocks of Bod’s character. By the time Bod has to meet the man who killed his parents, he is ready, and the reader knows exactly why.
Beverage: some hot, spicy cider.
Reminds me of… Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara, only because it is my other favorite Halloween book, and before this year I didn’t know of any good Halloween books at all, let alone brilliant ones.